How 'Regulating Facebook' Could Make Everyone's Concerns Worse, Not Better

from the it's-a-mess dept

In my last post, I described why it was wrong to focus on claims of Facebook "selling" your data as the "problem" that came out over the weekend concerning Cambridge Analytica and the data it had on 50 million Facebook users. As we described in detail in that post, that's not the problem at all. Instead, much of the problem has to do with Facebook's utter failure to be transparent in a way that matters -- specifically in a way that its users actually understand what's happening (or what may happen) to their data. Facebook would likely respond that it has tried to make that information clear (or, alternatively, it may say that it can't force users to understand what they don't take the time to understand). But I don't think that's a good answer. As we've learned, there's a lot more at stake here than I think even Facebook recognized, and providing much more real transparency (rather than superficial transparency) is what's necessary.

But that's not what most people are suggesting. For example, a bunch of people are calling for "Know Your Customer" type regulations similar to what's found in the financial space. Others seem to just be blindly demanding "oversight" without being able to clearly articulate what that even means. And some are bizarrely advocating "nationalizing Facebook", which would literally mean giving billions in taxpayer dollars to Mark Zuckerberg. But these "solutions" won't solve the actual issues. In that article about "KYC" rules, there's the following, for example:

“They should know who’s paying them,” said Vasant Dhar, a professor of information systems at New York University, “because the consequences are very serious.” In December, Dhar wrote an op-ed calling for social media regulation — specifically, something similar to the “know your customer” laws that apply to banks. “The US government and our regulators need to understand how digital platforms can be weaponized and misused against its citizens, and equally importantly, against democracy itself,” he wrote at the time.

Antonio García-Martinez, Facebook’s first targeted ads manager, thinks so too. “For certain classes of advertising, like politics, a random schmo with a credit card shouldn’t just be able to randomly run ads over the entire Facebook system,” he told me.

Except... that has literally nothing to do with what the Cambridge Analytica controversy is all about. And, anyway, as we've discussed before, the Russians bent over backwards to pretend to be Americans when buying ads, so it's not like KYC rules would really have helped for the ads. And the whole Cambridge Analytica may have involved some ads (and lots of other stuff), but Facebook knew who "the customer" was in that instance. And it knew how an "academic" was slurping up some data for "academic research." Knowing your customer wouldn't have made the slightest difference at all here.

Even Tim Berners-Lee, who recently stirred the pot by suggesting regulations for social media doesn't seem to have much concrete information that would have mattered here.

What’s more, the fact that power is concentrated among so few companies has made it possible to weaponise the web at scale. In recent years, we’ve seen conspiracy theories trend on social media platforms, fake Twitter and Facebook accounts stoke social tensions, external actors interfere in elections, and criminals steal troves of personal data.

We’ve looked to the platforms themselves for answers. Companies are aware of the problems and are making efforts to fix them — with each change they make affecting millions of people. The responsibility — and sometimes burden — of making these decisions falls on companies that have been built to maximise profit more than to maximise social good. A legal or regulatory framework that accounts for social objectives may help ease those tensions.

I don't think Tim is wrong per se in arguing that there are issues in how much power is concentrated between a small group of large companies -- but I'm not sure that "a legal or regulatory framework" actually fixes any of that. Indeed, it seems highly likely to do the reverse.

As Ben Thompson notes in his own post about this mess, most of the regulatory suggestions being proffered will lock in Facebook as an entrenched incumbent. That's because it will (a) create barriers that Facebook can deal with, but startups cannot and (b) focus on "cementing" Facebook's model (with safeguards) rather than letting the next wave of creative destruction take down Facebook.

It seems far more likely that Facebook will be directly regulated than Google; arguably this is already the case in Europe with the GDPR. What is worth noting, though, is that regulations like the GDPR entrench incumbents: protecting users from Facebook will, in all likelihood, lock in Facebook’s competitive position.

This episode is a perfect example: an unintended casualty of this weekend’s firestorm is the idea of data portability: I have argued that social networks like Facebook should make it trivial to export your network; it seems far more likely that most social networks will respond to this Cambridge Analytica scandal by locking down data even further. That may be good for privacy, but it’s not so good for competition. Everything is a trade-off.

Note that last bit? A good way to take away Facebook's dominance is to enable others to compete in the space. The best way to do that? Make it easy for people to switch from Facebook to upstart competitors. The best way to do that? Make it easier for Facebook users to export their data... and use it on another service. But as soon as you do that, you're actually right back into the risky zone. Why is Facebook in so much hot water right now? Because it made it too easy to export user data to third party platforms! And, any kind of GDPR-type solution is just going to lock down that data, rather than enabling them to help seed competition.

Cory Doctorow, over at EFF, has what I think is the most reasonable idea of all: enable third parties to build tools that help Facebook's (and every other platform's!) users better manager and understand their privacy settings and what's being done with their data. That's an actual solution to the problem we laid out in the previous post: Facebook's failed transparency. Doctorow compares the situation to ad-blockers. Ads became too intrusive, and users were able to make use of 3rd party services to stop the bad stuff. We should be able to do something similar with privacy and data controls. But, thanks to some pretty dumb laws and court rulings (including a key one that Facebook itself caused), that's really not possible:

This week, we made you a tutorial explaining the torturous process by which you can change your Facebook preferences to keep the company’s “partners” from seeing all your friends’ data. But what many folks would really like to do is give you a tool that does it for you: go through the tedious work of figuring out Facebooks inscrutable privacy dashboard, and roll that expertise up in a self-executing recipe — a piece of computer code that autopiloted your browser to login to Facebook on your behalf and ticked all the right boxes for you, with no need for you to do the fiddly work.

But they can’t. Not without risking serious legal consequences, at least. A series of court decisions — often stemming from the online gaming world, sometimes about Facebook itself — has made fielding code that fights for the user into a legal risk that all too few programmers are willing to take.

That's a serious problem. Programmers can swiftly make tools that allow us to express our moral preferences, allowing us to push back against bad behavior long before any government official can be convinced to take an interest — and if your government never takes an interest, or if you are worried about the government's use of technology to interfere in your life, you can still push back, with the right code.

So if we really, truly, want to deal with the problem, then we need to push for more control by the end users. Let users control and export their data, and let people build tools that allow them to do so, and to control and transparently understand what others do with their data.

If someone comes up with a "regulatory regime" that does that, it would be fantastic. But so far, nearly every suggestion I've seen has gone in the other direction. They will do things like force Facebook to "lock down" its data even more, making it harder for users to extract it, or for third parties to provide users the tools they need to control their own data. They'll put useless, but onerous, Know Your Customer rules that Facebook will be able to throw money at to solve, but every smaller platform will find incredibly costly.

I'm not optimistic about how all of this works out. Even if you absolutely hate Facebook and think the company is evil, doesn't care one wit about your privacy, and is run by the most evil person on the planet, you should be especially worried with the regulatory suggestions that are coming. They're not going to help. They're going to entrench Facebook and lock down your data.


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  • icon
    Mark Murphy (profile), 21 Mar 2018 @ 10:54am

    Why is Facebook in so much hot water right now? Because it made it too easy to export user data to third party platforms!

    There is a wide gulf between "a user can export their Facebook data to import into another service" and "arbitrary third parties can access arbitrary data about untold numbers of users who happen to visit a particular Facebook app".

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  • icon
    freedomfan (profile), 21 Mar 2018 @ 11:08am

    Another well-intended, bad idea

    Heaven save us from non-solutions to problems.

    It is interesting to me to see proponents using the Know Your Customer banking regulations as a template. And, no doubt, to encourage politicians to think that this is the sort of thing they already do and are good at.

    But, Know Your Customer is better called Spy on Your Customer for the Government. And, it's sort of a dumpster fire, forcing financial institutions into the "detecting vague federal financial crimes" business that they aren't good at, catching people that haven't done anything wrong, and encouraging banks to store all sorts of customer data that - please sing along with me - will eventually be hacked and stolen. And, of course, it persists largely because courts are willing to ignore the 4th amendment and let the government force 3rd parties to spy on you when they have no actual evidence that you have committed a crime.

    Like most laws that punishes activity that isn't actually criminal in itself, but that criminals often do, KYC sweeps up the innocent along with the guilty. Want to transfer $10k or more from your account? The government gets a report that you did that. Do that too many times or as part of a "suspicious" pattern and you may find yourself the target of a federal investigation.

    The idea that Facebook or other platforms should be spying on its users (more than it already does) and sending it reports to the government is another well-intended (I am hoping) but bad idea.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Mar 2018 @ 11:18am

    Not a shocker!

    The pro regulation crowd was warned, ad nauseam, that this was coming. You created a beast and now you can't stop it.

    At least you are not busy bashing those of us that told you so instead of facing the problem, well until after I post this.

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    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 21 Mar 2018 @ 11:40am

      Re: Not a shocker!

      The pro regulation crowd was warned, ad nauseam, that this was coming. You created a beast and now you can't stop it.

      Why do you keep falsely lumping us in as the "pro-regulation" crowd when we've told you at least a dozen times (often with links) why that argument is wrong (and amusingly, you've repeatedly admitted that you, too, are "pro-regulation" in some cases). We have long been skeptical of most regulation -- and only supportive in narrow cases, where all other solutions appear to be worse. Which is the same as you, who have admitted an affinity for anti-trust regulations.

      It's almost as if we've made a consistent nuanced message, which you have regularly ignored, despite being told about it over and over again. And then you attack us. Because of your own reading comprehension fail. Quite incredible.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 21 Mar 2018 @ 12:18pm

        Re: Re: Not a shocker!

        Yes I am pro-regulation for "very narrowly defined things". But in general I am anti-regulation.

        Yes I do agree that you are anti-regulation for "very narrowly defined things" but in general you are pro-regulation.

        Sure we can move the market around depending on the situation, but the over arching tone at TD is the government should regulate businesses in a way that is beneficial to the economy and citizens. Am I not correct about this statement?

        The problem I keep telling you guys is that this is a pipe dream. You just cannot have it because the only people willing to regulate others are nosey, controlling, corrupt, and self serving people. When we have poeple that do not want to run the government running the government then you "might" get that utopia you pine for but not as long as we elect people that actually WANT to be a politician.

        "It's almost as if we've made a consistent nuanced message, which you have regularly ignored,"

        Anyone can make that claim, and you are being dishonest by making it. My argument has never been that you failed to make a nuanced message. My argument is that you will never get a nuanced message to a politician and that you will NEVER get them to serve any other interest and that you will never get what you wanted out of the regulations you asked for.

        I "believe" your hearts are in the right place. But I KNOW your brains are not.

        You need to tell me how you can get a dirty corrupt politician to serve the public good?

        vote them out? how? each side protects their own regardless of corruption, unless they do something to sour their base.

        "And then you attack us. Because of your own reading comprehension fail. Quite incredible."

        I read history, do you know what it told me? That people like you are doomed to repeat it. But as usuall, pay no mind to me, even though I was right that you were going to get a Trump after Obama and that you would HATE the new FCC after Wheeler got replaced.

        I will say this, you are going to love the next Democrat in power because they are going to swing the nation in the opposite direction of Trump much to your glee and to the chagrin of the pro Trumpers... guess what happens after that?

        that is right, the pendulum will swing back and forth cutting the gut of the nation open and creating a divide that cannot be repaired. It is not even a prophecy, it is just too easy to see it coming once a person can step outside of their political dogmatic churches.

        this is not going away Mike.

        I am listening to you all, I am just saying you are wrong and do not understand the damage you are causing. But you are definitely not listening to me and many here like to call me an anarchist for advancing free market ideas.

        I would be okay with all of you losing your liberty in the economy if it were not for me having to lose mine long with yours.

        If you want government to protect you, go for it... you just need to shut up when you get protected in a way you don't like because you already gave your voice away and the only way you can have it back is to take back the liberty you gave up. It's not that difficult to understand, and yet you cannot even fathom that!

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        • icon
          Ninja (profile), 21 Mar 2018 @ 12:53pm

          Re: Re: Re: Not a shocker!

          Heh, amusing.

          Yeah, yeah, we know, you are the master of all knowledge and you hold all solutions to all problems (even though I have yet to see you suggest anything). Happy? Go away now, will you?

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          • identicon
            Chip, 21 Mar 2018 @ 12:56pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Not a shocker!

            Shut "up"! I have lots and "lots" of Suggestions! So many Suggestions! Such a "huge" and Numeraous list ofSuggestions that I'm not going to bher listing Any of "them"!

            Every nation eats the Paint chips it Deserves!

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              identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 21 Mar 2018 @ 1:18pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Not a shocker!

              Hey Chip! Put down the shit flavored paint chips, I brought Mint!

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            identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 21 Mar 2018 @ 1:14pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Not a shocker!

            Knowing what will not work is not the same as knowing everything.

            We have world history full of people getting government to control everything and it always fails. Even in America when we did have free market as an ideal a lot of people got scared and wanted protections and soon the free market died as a consequence of that fear. This happened even when the founders of this nation constantly had quotes like this...


            I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it.

            Thomas Jefferson

            A lot of people spend a lot of time taking advantage of something a wise person helped built and exactly no time ignoring the wisdom necessary to maintain what they built.

            It is also befuddling that people have the idea that a democracy can work in government and ask for it when free market is a literal democracy of economy and ask to have it regulated. This leads me to believe that a lot of people think they know more than they do... classic Dunning-Kruger effect.

            You guys are not stupid, just stuck in an indoctrination circle, because you know once you leave it, your friends will turn on you with a vengeance.

            There is also the problem of intelligence in leadership. Often times politicians are busy appealing to the lowest common denominator. Bush, Obama, Trump and Hillary are all examples of this. While none of these people are stupid, none of them have any exceptional intelligence either. They are only smart enough to appeal to the common being along certain political lines.

            https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-people-dislike-really-smart-leaders/

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            • icon
              Ninja (profile), 21 Mar 2018 @ 1:21pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Not a shocker!

              Yeah, right! You are the master! I'm almost bowing to the weight of your knowledge!

              Excuse-me while I go sacrifice puppies to the free market gods.

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                identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 21 Mar 2018 @ 1:26pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Not a shocker!

                See this is the problem right here. In you juvenile condescension you make the implication that I am advancing the notion that free market is a cure all.

                Nothing is a cure all, and there will never be one. free market just happens to be the best possible solution because it allows the individual to go out and do things without regulation becoming a road block they it has become for Google Fiber. I think that point was clear by my support for regulations that block natural monopolies.

                But no, you have to stick your fingers in your ears and yell la-la-la-la-laaaaaaaaaa.

                free market is not perfect because the humans participating in it are no perfect, but it is still better than just about anything else or going back down the give us a king/czar/chairman/regulator road for everything.

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                • icon
                  The Wanderer (profile), 21 Mar 2018 @ 2:15pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Not a shocker!

                  All else being equal, regulations to block monopolies are good.

                  However, regulations to block natural monopolies are futile, and do more harm than good.

                  If you understood what a natural monopoly is, and why it's called that, you would realize this.

                  The only viable ways to deal with natural monopolies are to bypass the bottleneck in ways which render them irrelevant (e.g. by technology advancing in previously unforeseen ways), or to regulate the operation of those monopolies, so that they do as little harm as possible.

                  To force the former to occur is impossible; that leaves us with only the latter, and regulations attempting to do the latter are among the types of regulation which you have most directly railed against.

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                • icon
                  Ninja (profile), 22 Mar 2018 @ 6:23am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Not a shocker!

                  "But no, you have to stick your fingers in your ears and yell la-la-la-la-laaaaaaaaaa."

                  Pot, meet kettle. If you don't like it don't do it.

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                • identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, 22 Mar 2018 @ 10:24am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Not a shocker!

                  communism is not perfect because the humans participating in it are no perfect, but it is still better than just about anything else or going back down the give us a king/czar/chairman/regulator road for everything.

                  Here, fixed that for you.

                  Why do both extremes say pretty much similar things?

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            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 21 Mar 2018 @ 1:28pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Not a shocker!

              You are a walking talking Dunning-Kruger effect. It’s kinda fun to watch someone with a middle school level of argumentation try to lecture adults.

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                identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 21 Mar 2018 @ 1:47pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Not a shocker!

                How else would I address a group of middle school minded people?

                Here, I have to explain simple logic as though it were complex and you still fail to grasp large portions of simple ideas.

                You would only be an adult by age, not by wisdom or understanding, things that are not granted without effort and genuine desire to understand or learn. There is a definite reason I brought up this effect.

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                • icon
                  The Wanderer (profile), 21 Mar 2018 @ 2:10pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Not a shocker!

                  The thing is that the real world is not that simple.

                  Trying to apply simplistic solutions to complex problems is unlikely to solve those problems, and if it does, is overwhelmingly likely to introduce other problems - probably, in cumulative total, worse than the ones that were solved.

                  Everything I remember seeing you suggest - which isn't much - has been overly simplistic and has ignored important nuance and detail of the real world.

                  If you understood the complexity of the actual problems at hand, you would not be trying to suggest such simplistic approaches as if they were so self-evidently sufficient that anyone who fails to see that is either stupid or ignorant.

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                  • identicon
                    Thad, 21 Mar 2018 @ 2:18pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Not a shocker!

                    Charles Stross likes to say that what Marxism and Libertarianism have in common is that they're both fascinating, complex, internally-consistent systems that require you to replace all the human beings with perfect frictionless spheres.

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                    • icon
                      The Wanderer (profile), 21 Mar 2018 @ 6:24pm

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Not a shocker!

                      Yep.

                      If you look into my comment history, you'll see a fair number of comments which describe an explanation of a logical model which could underlie an argument someone seems to be pushing, follows that with something like "I don't know if I agree with that" or "That doesn't make a lot of sense in the real world" or "Which is clearly ludicrous", and ends with "but it is at least internally consistent".

                      "Internally consistent" does not mean "correct". There are a Hell of a lot of internally-consistent models out there (probably the overwhelming majority of them not explicitly stated, even in the privacy of their adherents' minds) which have no bearing on external reality.

                      (My own top-level cosmology is probably even one of the worst offenders; my only defense is that it's so irrelevant to almost everything that I pretty much only even mention it in the first place when discussing abstract philosophy.)

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                • identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, 21 Mar 2018 @ 2:13pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Not a shocker!

                  see, i think your problem is that your tone is confrontational and condescending.

                  A lot of your responses are more dismissive than properly addressing the subject with maturity.

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                • identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, 21 Mar 2018 @ 3:53pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Not a shocker!

                  “There is a definite reason I brought up this effect.”

                  Oh chip you’ve mistaken yourself for someone who actually know what they are talking about. Lead poisoning’s a bitch like that.

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        • icon
          Mike Masnick (profile), 21 Mar 2018 @ 5:41pm

          Re: Re: Re: Not a shocker!

          Yes I am pro-regulation for "very narrowly defined things". But in general I am anti-regulation.

          Yes. Same here. AS I JUST TOLD YOU. And then you immediately pretend we said the exact opposite (and then we wonder why people get so exasperated at you -- it's because you act like an idiot where you deny the facts that people tell you).

          Yes I do agree that you are anti-regulation for "very narrowly defined things" but in general you are pro-regulation.

          No. As I said in the comment you are replying to, we are generally anti-regulation and only pro-regulation in very narrowly defined categories where (1) other solutions are almost certainly not going to work and (2) where the regulations are narrowly defined and carefully prescribed -- and with tremendous oversight on the results.

          Sure we can move the market around depending on the situation, but the over arching tone at TD is the government should regulate businesses in a way that is beneficial to the economy and citizens. Am I not correct about this statement?

          You are almost 100% incorrect. Our position has long held that the government will almost always get regulation wrong -- and even when it means well, it will harm the economy and citizens. I've told you this before. I don't know why you pretend otherwise.

          You focus on the one are where we think very narrowly prescribed regulation makes sense: net neutrality. In almost every other area, we are quite concerned about the approach of regulation. And the reason why we're in favor of very narrowly defined regulation in net neutrality is for the exact reasons that you say regulation is okay: it is the only realistic way to deal with the monopoly power and abuse by broadband providers.

          The problem I keep telling you guys is that this is a pipe dream. You just cannot have it because the only people willing to regulate others are nosey, controlling, corrupt, and self serving people. When we have poeple that do not want to run the government running the government then you "might" get that utopia you pine for but not as long as we elect people that actually WANT to be a politician.

          You have built up a strawman in your head. We do not advocate for regulation the way you pretend we do.

          Anyone can make that claim, and you are being dishonest by making it. My argument has never been that you failed to make a nuanced message. My argument is that you will never get a nuanced message to a politician and that you will NEVER get them to serve any other interest and that you will never get what you wanted out of the regulations you asked for.

          Which regulations have we asked for? Do tell.

          You need to tell me how you can get a dirty corrupt politician to serve the public good?

          How many times must I point out that we agree. Most regulations will result in corruption/regulatory capture/monopoly rents or the like. That's why we are generally against regulation -- especially in technology where things are changing so fast that regulation will often exacerbate problems rather than solve them.

          SEE THIS FREAKING POST AS AN EXAMPLE.

          If you want government to protect you, go for it... you just need to shut up when you get protected in a way you don't like because you already gave your voice away and the only way you can have it back is to take back the liberty you gave up. It's not that difficult to understand, and yet you cannot even fathom that!

          Your reading comprehension level is so bad it's incredible.

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          • icon
            cattress (profile), 21 Mar 2018 @ 9:27pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Not a shocker!

            Again, Cheers Mike! I'm a libertarian and it is beyond frustrating that fellow libertarians don't understand net neutrality, so they rail against it and call NN supporters stupid and/or socialist. Internet access has been reliant on the regulated telecom industry before becoming a utility itself and has never been a free market. Because internet access is a service from the already long-since entrenched telecom and cable monopoly providers, there is nothing anti-liberty about setting some ground rules to ensure all of the entities dependent on a monopoly provider have free market opportunities to flourish.
            Mike is pointing out the solutions suggested by EFF which are free market and need no government intervention (aside from rolling back regulations that hinder these solutions). These are the same things- although much better articulated and researched- that I have been arguing for every time I hear calls to regulate Facebook, Google, Twitter: give people the tools and access to settings to select what they are willing to share about themselves and with whom, and what content they wish to be "protected" from. Empower people to make their own choices- with both the liabilities and benefits from those choices. We don't need the government to protect us from ourselves, even if we aren't concious of how we might be "harming" ourselves.

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 21 Mar 2018 @ 9:32pm

          Re: Re: Re: Not a shocker!

          But in general I am anti-regulation.

          And yet you lose your shit harder than a patient with dysentery whenever somebody points that out...

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  • identicon
    Agammamon, 21 Mar 2018 @ 11:20am

    “The US government and our regulators need to understand how digital platforms can be weaponized and misused against its citizens, and equally importantly, against democracy itself,”

    “For certain classes of advertising, like politics, a random schmo with a credit card shouldn’t just be able to randomly run ads over the entire Facebook system,”

    Wouldn't a random schmos with a credit cards *be democracy*?

    'In order to protect democracy we had to destroy it.'

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  • identicon
    Agammamon, 21 Mar 2018 @ 11:23am

    "companies that have been built to maximise profit more than to maximise social good."

    Profit is a sign that you *are* maximizing social good.

    The purpose of a company is to make money - through providing value to others. Profit is a sign that you are providing more good than you cost.

    The 'social good' of a company lies in the goods and services it provides, not the amount of tax it pays.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Mar 2018 @ 11:27am

      Re:

      "The purpose of a company is to make money - through providing value to others. Profit is a sign that you are providing more good than you cost."

      Not when regulation gets involved. Once that happens the purpose of a company is to rejigger regulations until they can cut the market feet out from other their current and especially FUTURE competitors.

      this is why I keep telling folks that they cannot abdicate their part in a responsible economy and expect it to magically work out under "regulation".

      We should have created a "Bill of Free-Enterprise" instead of a "Bill of Rights", but then again, we have already destroyed those.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 21 Mar 2018 @ 11:43am

        Re: Re:

        Goof god man. Just because paint is sold by the gallon doesn’t mean you have to drink it as such. They put a replaceable lid on it you know.

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 21 Mar 2018 @ 12:53pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          There is usually none left by the time you are done with it. Transferring guilt are we?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 21 Mar 2018 @ 1:31pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            The only thing more pathetic than your attempts at insults is the fact you think the two quotes that you worked so hard to memorise actually mean fuck all in the context you use them in.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Thad, 21 Mar 2018 @ 12:07pm

      Re:

      Profit is a sign that you are maximizing social good.

      Haha, good one!

      Pull the other one.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Mar 2018 @ 2:06pm

      Re:

      Not to be mean but saying profit means value is being exchanged it like completely and utterly wrong. You realize that companies impose fees and all kinds of nasty bits of contractual obligations on consumers to get that profit right? It's not driven by some "invisible hand." Trust me, the wealthy don't give two hoots about whether you got value of the service or good you bought. All they care about is that you bought at a price they wanted for the return on investment they demand. If you don't then you're a "parasite" to them. Seriously, I wish people would stop with this libertopian nonsense already.

      /rant

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        cattress (profile), 22 Mar 2018 @ 12:19am

        Re: Re:

        Value is a relative term, and if I do not feel that I am getting my money's worth, I can choose not to buy the good or service, or to buy from a competing business (with the exception of utilities). A company's ability to impose prices, fees and contractual obligations that diminish the value of a product, and I cannot take my business elsewhere, is the result of over-REGULATION that comes from cronyism. Businesses that cannot or do not want to compete lobby the government for rules to protect them from competition- most of which are under the guise of public safety. I'm saying all regulations are cronyiest tools with no actual consumer interest; each regulation should be evaluated for it's merit.
        Think about it for a minute. Taxi companies versus rideshare companies. Professional licensing- like cosmotology licensing for hair braiding and eyebrow threading. Comcast fighting one-touch make ready so that Google couldn't lay fiber wireline.
        You are angry at free markets and capitalism because the US market is actually drenched in cronyism that is intentionally and incorrectly being called capitalism. Libertarians aren't spouting the nonsense. Republicans who claim they want free markets but actually want laws to benefit their cronies are nonsense. Democrats who claim they want they want consumer protections but ignore all of the unintended consequences are nonsense.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          The Wanderer (profile), 22 Mar 2018 @ 4:59am

          Re: Re: Re:

          A company's ability to impose prices, fees and contractual obligations that diminish the value of a product, and I cannot take my business elsewhere, is the result of over-REGULATION that comes from cronyism.

          Not necessarily.

          If you can't take your business elsewhere, that means either you're forbidden from doing so on pain of punishment (and the people doing the punishing won't be penalized for it), or there's a monopoly in place.

          Examples of the former include both "there's a law forbidding you from taking your business to any other provider" and "this provider's thugs will come and beat you for trying to take your business elsewhere, and the government is either unwilling or unable to stop them from doing that".

          For the latter, monopolies certainly can arise from (the wrong sorts of) regulation, but they can also arise in a completely unregulated environment; in fact, when the seed of a monopoly takes shape in an unregulated market, there are perfectly natural market forces which serve almost exclusively to strengthen it.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            cattress (profile), 23 Mar 2018 @ 11:55pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Name an unregulated market. There are places in the US that "regulate" children's lemonade stands. The internet isn't even entirely unregulated.
            There are probably some areas in which the mob or some kind of organized criminal gang can inflict some force on how people do business. Labor unions can legally do some pretty thuggish things to a business for using non-union workers. In these situations the control is over the businesses, not the consumers. I can't think of any services in which provider's thugs are a threat to consumers.
            Some businesses do require contracts that can be expensive to get out of, like a gym membership or wireless contracts. But consumers can get out of them, and they were not forced to sign the contract with a particular provider, they could shop around.
            I did make exception for utilities, as these tend to fall into a natural monopoly due to high investment costs at start up. Utilities should have some regulations because natural market forces are extremely limited.
            Now as for the big tech companies, Facebook, Google, Twitter, ect, hold such a large market share because they have a product people want. There are competitors and alternative services, no one is forced to use the big ones so they are not monopolies. However, as Masnick and several others have pointed out, if Facebook gets regulated, their service will be cemented and they become far less likely to fall to creative destruction that would bring on a new industry leader(s). Regulation creates monopolies, it solidifies the positions of incumbents. The big tech companies aren't scared of SESTA/FOSTA because they can afford to comply, unlike the smaller companies who could be wiped out with one mistake. And ultimately, the survivors of this regulation will just be more cronies of the government that we can't get rid of when they stop servicing the consumer.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              The Wanderer (profile), 24 Mar 2018 @ 6:31pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Completely unregulated markets have existed at various points in history, in various places around the world.

              I was not attempting to assert that any such exist (at least at any meaningful scale) in today's world.

              My point is that inability to take business elsewhere does not arise exclusively from (over-)regulation; it would arise at least as much (and quite possibly much worse) in the absence of all regulation, and that's a large part of why regulations exist in the first place.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Mar 2018 @ 9:13am

      Re:

      "Profit is a sign that you *are* maximizing social good. "

      From where did you get your education?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Mar 2018 @ 11:26am

    I knew we could count on you to start defending Daddy Z, Mike. Good job, boy!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Mar 2018 @ 11:27am

      Re:

      I'm sure Mark will safe you a really nice doghouse in Zuckerville, boy.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 21 Mar 2018 @ 11:41am

      Re:

      I knew we could count on you to start defending Daddy Z, Mike. Good job, boy!

      Oh look. Our resident troll only read the headline and not the rest of the post. How typical.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 21 Mar 2018 @ 12:00pm

        Re: Re:

        There was a point in time when Techdirt was true to its name. I'm just curious what happened to change that. Did someone make a large donation to your legal fund or something in exchange for your becoming just another Surveillance Valley corporate mouthpiece?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 21 Mar 2018 @ 1:19pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          No one is stopping you from showing TD up by creating your own site and doing news "your way" now is there?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Thad, 21 Mar 2018 @ 12:08pm

        Re: Re:

        Maybe that's why he sticks novels in his subject line.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Mar 2018 @ 11:28am

    Facebook should not be regulated

    It should be burned to the ground.

    The only people left defending it and its sociopathic founder are ignorant assholes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Mar 2018 @ 11:34am

      Re: Facebook should not be regulated

      These days, TechCrunch is more likely to call out the shady shit happening in Surveillance Valley than Tech"dirt". That's pretty fucking sad.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 21 Mar 2018 @ 11:46am

        Re: Re: Facebook should not be regulated

        Start your own blog if you don’t like this one and stop being such a little bitch.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Mar 2018 @ 11:48am

      Re: Facebook should not be regulated

      The problem is that these "ignorant assholes" that use and promote Facebook are virtually all of our family and friends as well as many of our business contacts. I'm often made to feel like some kind of hermit living alone in the forest just because I don't do Facebook.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Mar 2018 @ 11:36am

    Facebook is like the digital equivalent of tobacco, as most people want to quit but find themselves hopelessly hooked. This situation didn't happen by accident, it was crafted into the very DNA of Facebook.

    Of course Facebook will fight tooth and nail against any attempts to enable users to easily transport all their 'stuff' into a competing social-media site. The Ghost of Myspace must be permanently etched in the back of their minds to serve as the example of what happens to the hegemon social site when a competing site is ever allowed to grow beyond infancy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Mar 2018 @ 12:18pm

    If we really, truly, want to deal with the problem,

    then we need to push for more control by the end users.

    Absolutely hate Facebook and think the company is evil, doesn't care one whit about your privacy, and is run by the most evil person on the planet.

    They are not going to help. They are going to entrench Facebook and lock down your data.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      PhilK, 21 Mar 2018 @ 5:02pm

      Re: If we really, truly, want to deal with the problem,

      Anonymous Coward, I've just visited this site for the first time and I read every single comment on this post. You are right about nearly everything, but you don't realize our education system has been completely corrupted. The nail in the coffin was 'whole word memorization' which plummeted reading comprehension dramatically. But the real threat is they quit teaching people how to think critically and instead respond with emotional arguments and group think. Because of this we will be forced to live in what comes AFTER America and anyone who thinks that will be better (in any way) is an idiot. :(

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Christenson, 21 Mar 2018 @ 12:27pm

    Re-formulating the problem: Public versus Private and discovery

    At it's core, the problem is that when I put anything "on the internet", it's recorded, seemingly permanently. We've seen that data shared with anyone tends to be shared with everyone, too, since computers are doing such a horrible job of keeping secrets lately.

    Now, let me share some data with 50 of my closest friends...I'm supposed to be surprised when that reaches the wide world, including my boss, advertisers, and political analysts?

    So far, we've dealt with that by role-based identities...one for credit, another for health care, a third (or two, if you think people might react badly to your eccentric predilections) for social, and a fourth for work. But the boundaries are breaking down... and the current kerfluffle is only a symptom....

    Unfortunately, the cure involves minimizing the number of parties we have to trust, and those parties themselves being able to trust their own computers.

    I also think that we will also need to recognize limits to individualisation of public communication...that is, I should not be able to target a particular ad to a particular group without also having it reach a wider audience. Otherwise, I *could* secretly target an ad to disaffected gun nuts likely to shoot up schools, and in that ad, encourage them to become *more* disaffected with tragic results. That, in essence is what the russians did in 2016, and it's how special-interest groups like the NRA function, too.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Mar 2018 @ 12:52pm

    What did Chris say

    "Aquarius - You're Gonna Die!
    Capricorn - You're Gonna Die!
    Gemini - You're Gonna Die TWICE!
    Leo - You're Gonna Die!"

    Similarly, if you use a cell phone - you're being tracked!
    if you use a credit card - you're being tracked!
    if you use an email account - you're being tracked!
    if you use a social media account - you're being tracked!
    if you use a "smart device" (Alexa) - you're being tracked!
    if you go outside - you're being tracked!

    Privacy is a fallacy. Besides, how else will the antichrist be able to dictate who can buy and who can sell?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Mar 2018 @ 12:58pm

      Re: What did Chris say

      check out China and their Social Credit. they are already talking about preventing people from being able to do things if they fuck up.

      sounds like a leftist utopia over there, they can fuck with any one that steps out of "prescribed" line.

      China IS the goal, just like how other nations figured out that it is better to install 220~240 AC power in their electrical grid because they had the benefit of learning from the mistakes of the pioneers in the USA when we installed 110~120 AC. China learned that they can take the spying and data collection that America pioneered and turn it right into 1984 without a second thought. Trump/Obama/Bush/Hillary are all fucking jealous of China right now!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 21 Mar 2018 @ 1:21pm

        Re: Re: What did Chris say

        "sounds like a leftist utopia over there, they can fuck with any one that steps out of "prescribed" line."

        Let me take that back.

        Sounds like both a left and right utopia.

        My universal position is that the greatest misery you can inflict upon someone is to let them have their ideal government. Both the left and the right would find themselves in utter misery if their machinations were allowed to proceed undaunted in government.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          teka, 21 Mar 2018 @ 4:14pm

          Re: Re: Re: What did Chris say

          Thank goodness we have such fearless and brilliant leaders as you to complain about how wrong everyone is.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 22 Mar 2018 @ 9:19am

        Re: Re: What did Chris say

        Sounds like a dictatorship, which does not fit into your stereotypical right/left dichotomy.

        In fact, " fuck with any one that steps out of "prescribed" line." sounds more like a right thing than a left thing - but who cares.

        and yes, that credit score bullshit has go to go.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Cowherd, 22 Mar 2018 @ 1:58am

    If you want to keep something private, you don't post it on the internet. That should be obvious. Everybody knows Facebook does its business with every bit of info you post there (and tries its darndest to spy on things you don't post, too).

    There is no problem with advertizing, targeted or otherwise, that can't be solved with education and critical thinking. It's the same thing as the whole "fake news" brouhaha. People should just learn not to trust all the crap that's shoveled at them.

    But of course, critical thinking is the last thing the politicians and media companies who stir controversy about these things want to encourage...can't have their subjects question the crap <i>they</i> shovel.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Thad, 22 Mar 2018 @ 10:41am

      Re:

      If you want to keep something private, you don't post it on the internet. That should be obvious. Everybody knows Facebook does its business with every bit of info you post there (and tries its darndest to spy on things you don't post, too).

      Everybody who comments on Techdirt knows that. That's not the same as everybody knowing it.

      Most Facebook users are vaguely aware that Facebook is using their personal information to sell ads. They don't know the details. They probably don't know that there are Facebook scripts tracking them even across non-Facebook sites. They probably don't know there are ways to opt out of certain types of data collection. Most of them, assuredly, do not know what an API even is.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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